There was a moment during the chaos of Manchester United’s Premier League fixture with Reading in December that a 4-3 scoreline looked not only unlikely, but preposterous. The two sides would surely score far more than that. Yet, amid two of the worst defensive performances of the current se ason, the sides conspired to see out a goalless second period after seven were struck in the first.
The sides meet in different circumstances on Monday night with an FA Cup quarter final place at stake. Neither likely to defend with such apathy at Old Trafford, even if each has greater priorities in the season ahead.
United, far from fresh after draining encounters against Everton and Real Madrid in the past week, will be much changed. Meanwhile, the visitors’ manager Brian McDermott is likely to prioritise league points with Reading still in the drop zone.
Still, United’s handsome Premier league lead, allied to a positive result in Madrid last Wednesday, ensures that talk of another treble is now rife. Too early, perhaps, but with United in a strong position on three fronts manager Sir Alex Ferguson’s challenge is as much to set expectations for the season to come, as it is a motivational driver.
“I just look at the next match, thinking about winning the next match,” said Ferguson, who may change his entire team for Reading’s visit.
“The reality is don’t get carried away by it, particularly in the FA Cup, anything can happen. You don’t want to be a shock, that’s for sure.
“So Monday, in many people’s eyes, it’s Reading: ‘Yeah, we’ve just been to Madrid, it was a great night and Monday will take care of itself.’ Monday can’t take of itself. We have to take care of it, we have to have performance which respects our opponents and the fact that the FA Cup can produce shocks.”
Ferguson will certainly rest forwards Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie, although the Dutchman has seemingly asked to be involved against Reading.
Meanwhile, with Paul Scholes still suffering from a knee injury and Michael Carrick due a rest, both Anderson and Tom Cleverley could start at Old Trafford. Forwards Nani, Ashley Young and Javier Hernández will rotate into the side.
Goalkeeper Anders Lindegaard could come into the side, although the Danish international was a principle culprit in United shipping three against Reading earlier in the campaign.
Whatever the changes on Monday, Ferguson believes his squad is well equipped to challenge, especially with the quarter-final carrot of a match at home to Chelsea on offer.
“The incentive is there to get to the quarter-finals and I don’t think that will be lost on the players, no matter what side I pick,” added the 71-year-old.
“We’re taking nothing for granted. With an FA Cup tie, you always have to expect the unexpected. It happens so many times, you just don’t want to be a casualty or a shock. We’ve had a few over the years.
“I think there’s a good spirit in the place and they’re all contributing,” he said. “Whatever side I pick, I know we’re expected to qualify.
“That’s what happens with United. It doesn’t matter what team you play, you’re expected to win. But I couldn’t be more pleased than I am at the moment really with the form and the spirit in the place.”
Meanwhile, Reading make the trip north with Premier League status the season’s only real priority, although the Royals arrive in the side’s best form of the season, having lost just one match in the past seven.
The Berkshire side scored four against United in December, with McDermott’s side repeatedly punishing the Reds’ inability to deal with balls delivered from wide areas. Yet, Reading’s adventure at the Madjesky may not be repeated at Old Trafford, especially with McDermott’s side due to take on fellow strugglers Wigan Athletic next Saturday.
Midfielders Jimmy Kebe and Mikele Leigertwood are doubts with injury and unlikely to be risked. Adam Le Fondre and Noel Hunt could start, but veteran Jason Roberts and Alex McCarthy are definitely out.
And if Reading arrive at Old Trafford with alternate priorities, then there is also a risk of McDermott’s side being caught in the headlights. It is a risk exposed in McDermott’s obsequious sycophancy this week.
“Sir Alex Ferguson won’t take anything for granted, there’s no doubt about that,” said the Reading manager. “To move on the way they did from last season, to take that on to the pitch and that hurt, tells you the power of the people there.”
History is also on United’s side too – the Reds have won 10 and lost just one of the 18 previous competitive matches between these sides. Meanwhile, in FA Cup matches United has won six of the past seven.
It points to United’s safe passage and a – potential – quarter final tie against Chelsea to come.
Manchester United v Reading – FA Cup, Old Trafford – 8pm, 18 February 2013
United (4-2-3-1): Lindegaard; Jones, Smalling, Vidić, Büttner; Cleverley, Anderson; Nani, Giggs, Young; Hernández. Subs from: de Gea, Ferdinand, Rafael, Evans, Evra, Nani, Kagawa, Carrick, Valencia, Powell,Cleverley, Welbeck, Rooney, van Persie.
Reading (4-5-1): Federici; Pearce,Mariappa, Harte, Kelly; Hunt, McAnuff, Carrico, Guthrie, Karacan; Pogrebnyak. Subs from: Taylor, Shorey, Morrison, McCleary, Leigertwood, Kebe, Le Fondre, Blackman
Referee: Andre Marriner
Assistant Referees: Darren England and Steve Child
Fourth Official: Philip Dowd
Head to Head
Last 10: United 6, Reading 4, Draw 0
Overall: United 9, Reading 1, Draw 7
86 thoughts on “Preview: United v Reading”
I could see the side being set out something like you’ve indicated, but I would play Kagawa behind Chicharito. He’s not done particularly well since returning from injury, and I would hope that a chance to start in his preferred position against a lesser side would be just the ticket to get his season back on track.
Jones Small Vidic Butt
Val And Clev Young
powell not even on the bench
Strongish side with a good bench; I hope they can do the business.
Subs: Lindegaard, Ferdinand, Giggs, Nani, RvP, Kagawa, and Carrick.
Anything but a replay, please.
We’re fucking him about
Nani benched n all
If Val can’t have a decent game against these then he’s done
if we lose this we’re giving city the cup
Anyone got a high quality link?
Hmmm. Bit lethargic from ourside. Cant hold up the ball up front…
bit headless chicken tactics
after the lord mayors show tbf
I want Hunt on the ball more because Vidic is monstering him like this is a cup final or something
Where the fuck is Ando. Missing totally so far…
Nani has been hit 3 times since he came on
Typical lacklustre performance against a bottom side
To me Ando has been completely missing….Hernandez has also been awful…cant hold up the ball though tbf that’s not his game….Young also his ineffectual self…lots of running but no real quality
Tbf defense looks solid, Reading hasnt really threatened….lets hope our attack improves
the anderson and cleverley partnership has been crap
Fucking hell Brian, you think you’d have this sussed by now
Wiziwig – now sit down and behave
Anderson must be taken off for united to have a chance. Add Anderson’s wages to nani and ship that pie eater off!
This is a shop window game for our faffers
i think tony v has had a decent run in the team recently but i guess he has lost the plot for the most part
time for rvp to get on and show the rest of them up front how to do it
wanking performance so far this half
this cunt hunt is everywhere tonight
Come on ffs.
pretty piss poor fare since half time tbh
Hello Han, absolutely, boring stuff.
This game is just lacking a spark, a bit of magic, something to liven things up. Far too often players are getting into good positions and suffering from indecisiveness. Hopefully van Persie’s arrival can shake things up a bit, because this is getting a bit tedious.
about fking time
Nani deserved that
Fnally an assist from Valencia and a goal from Nani. Both a long time coming….
Good job…lets add more!
Fergie can sit down now
little pea can’t score for toffee when he starts…
Wow Nani having a good game. Wonders never cease….perhaps a sign of good things to come?
Amazing what happens when you take Young off
The cross from Nani, dropped in to that area near post, begging to be nodded in
He’ll do thousands of them
Blimey, van Persie hasn’t been directly involved in the goals, but his presence does seem to have made a difference. The way Reading have been parking the bus though, I kind of suspected there might be more goals once the first went in. Hopefully we can add one or two more now.
United Rant’s original returning eternal optimist!
lol careful doing a chest bump with Ando, you’re taking your life into your hands
Don’t let your heart play tricks on you! I’ve been waiting years for him to sort his self out! He’ll only let you down!
That ball from Van Persie
MANCHESTER IS MY HEAVEN- SIR MATT BUSBY
let them in
sloppy shit that.
cue le fondre late equaliser
welbeck ffs tripping over his left foot
MANCHESTER IS MY HEAVEN- SIR MATT BUSBY
Van persie is as influential in a forward role as Keane was in midfield
Not to break up the Mad/han love in, but did anyone else just see Red Dread there?
Cunt’s put on a few kilos!
Explain yourself Cap!!
And Keane is one of my fave 3 utd players of all time
he’s pretty good in defence too tbf
We’re just hoofing it back to Reading
After Welbeck’s bit of skill the TV cut to a chunky version of J in the blue away kit.
made such hard work of that win.
Bloody Wellbeck. He needs to improve tht part of his game. Actually he needs to improve all parts of his game…..except for the running part…he does thta pretty well…
Another long night watching United.
im bored of waiting for fat anderson to do something
headless chicken syndrome
cept for last week when he scored with his head…
From the Reading manager: “I spoke to Robin van Persie when he was warming up and told him to sit back down….”
Nani had an excellent game. He has earned his place and he should start against Real.
Let them have our own Ronaldo to worry about
He shouldn’t start on the left wing however, he’s next to useless there.
Not sure how well Coentrao knows his play though, both being Portugese and all.
Surely, SURELY, Nani must play. Maybe not against Real, not knowing what our gameplan will be and how he would fit into that, but against QPR. Valencia needs some time to sit in the naughty corner and sort his shit out. He’s been absolutely terrible for months. It’s really beyond a joke now. It can’t get worse.
Wouldn’t mind seeing Giggs on the left, Nani on the right against QPR. They’re our in-form wide players at the minute, you can’t really argue with that. Although you can debate what that says about the rest of the wingers til the cows come home.
…QPR. Then, as Tommy wrote, Sir Alex can see if Nani fits the plan for the return match with Real Madrid.
Really, Tommy: Nani plays well in one half of one match and he is “in form”? Just how much further can our standards fall?
I know, I know… But at this point would you really put him 3rd behind Valencia and Young?
No, but I might put him third behind Rooney and Welbeck.
Seriously though, I do hope that Nani has chosen this moment to pull his head out of his ass and to start performing as we know he can. Since United are unlikely to keep a clean sheet when Real come to OT, they will have to win the match outright, and if Nani could be trusted to do the job—both offensively and defensively—on the right wing, that would allow Sir Alex to slot Rooney in behind RvP in the only formation likely to bring victory to the Red Devils.
OK, so what’s the point of Ashley Young ? He can’t pass with any accuracy; he runs into blind alleys; and when he has the keeper at his mercy – on the ground after saving Cleverley’s shot – AY can’t score.
The difference between a journeyman and a guy with awesome talent and audacity was on display last night – within four minutes of his introduction, Nani had hit the post with a fantastic volley AND forced the Reading keeper to make a full-stretch save. In the second half, he scored one, set up another and was CONSTANTLY dangerous.
Sure, Nani might go walkabout from time-to-time but the point of being an attacking player is, surely, to attack and create panic among the opposition. What does Ashley Young (or Antonio Valencia, for that matter) contribute to the attack ? It’s suicidal to keep a talent like Nani on the outside, looking in. He’s a game-changer – and last night he was the match winner. Like I wrote before, what’s the point of Ashley Young ?
Just because Ashley Young is next to useless doesn’t make Nani the Messiah. Nani can be a game-changer, and last night he was the match winner, but in the league cup match against Cheatski, it proved suicidal to trust Nani to make the right decision, to think first of the needs of the team rather than those of his ego.
young is terrible regardless of nani
offers nothing, completely average player
he doesnt hide though tbf, so hes a notch above valencia
I’m still gobsmacked by how poor Valencia has become. I haven’t seen a footballer’s performance levels drop this far since… I dunno, Torres?
If Jones doesn’t recover in time for the return leg with Real, Valencia might be the man to put on Ronaldo. I understand that he plays CM for his country.
Watching CL tonight, realised we had no players who could actually dribble past a man any more (except maybe Jones). Nani could well be sold, Young can only cut back onto his right, Valencia and Anderson just have zero confidence, Rooney seems to have had it coached out of him. Makes us very 1 dimensional.
RobDiablo @ 5:29: “Nani can be a game-changer, and last night he was the match winner, but in the league cup match against Cheatski, it proved suicidal to trust Nani to make the right decision, to think first of the needs of the team rather than those of his ego.”
That “mistake” against Chelski was blown waaay out of proportion – sure it was a knucklehead move to try and add an extra goal in added time rather than keeping the ball in the corner BUT let’s not forget that when he gave up the ball in the corner TheRentBoyz were a full-pitch-length away from UTD’s goal. Don’t any of the other ten guys on the pitch have any share in the “blame game”. Indeed, if he had faffed about in the corner and lost the ball the only difference would have been that CSKALondon would have probably had a few less seconds to run the ball the length of the pitch and score before time ended. AND, if memory serves, there was a minute to go when control of the ball was given away. So, re-run the tape and replay that last minute and the same result – shitty defending (as has been all-too-common for the past year) might have snatched a draw from the grasp of victory. Was Nani to blame for the much, much, much worse meltdown against Everton last spring ?
Anyhow, I am not saying that he is “the Messiah” but I do think that he’s a guy with audacious talent, speed, and skill who can (and does) use both feet which is NOT what can be said about Young, Valencia, or even Giggs. Nani is a talent and it’s not his “fault” that SAF hasn’t managed him better – the last time Fergy let him out of the doghouse (against TheArse at the beginning of 2010) Nani damned-near carried the team for 18 months.
The only way it would make sense to dispense with Nani’s services – and to keep hold of both Young and Valencia – is if the team is going to abandon its reliance on wingers which doesn’t seem very likely as SAF has splashed-the-ca$h on Zaha or if (when miracles never cease !) Bebe comes good.
I only chose the league cup as the most recent example of the flip side of what Nani brings to the table.
Personally, I can think of no reason to dispense with Nani and not do the same with Young and Valencia except that finances won’t allow Sir Alex to buy quality replacements. So, I guess he’ll continue to buy a right-footed winger every other season and ruin the best of them by playing them on the left.
Valencia’s played brilliantly over the last few seasons to be dismissed off in such a fickle manner. If it were Rooney we’d be blaming Fergie for not playing Madonna and Tom Cruise along with him to suit his play.
Valencia more than deserves his chance next season. He’s top class and this form of his is only temporary.
Only Young perhaps needs replacing with a top class player if available. If not, I’ll rather keep Young, he’s not a bad player and does offer more than any of our wingers on the left side of the pitch. Nani will probably be sold anyway next season, he’d have signed a contract by now if he were staying.
Edit: I thought Valencia was quite decent against Reading, not a bad performance for a player so much out of form.
Sir Ryan Giggs? No no no. Sir Paul Scholes say.
Young is terrible. Agree
Valencia is off form. Agree. But given his Player’s Player of the year performance last season surely he deserves another chance next season
Nani, great talent, game changer? Absolutely. But from past 3 seasons, how many times has he changed a game? How many times has he made wrong decisions? How many times does he frustrate instead of having an end product?
I love Nani’s talent. But what we need is consistent performance. Whats the point of having even the most talented player in the world if you’re never sure whether you’ll get that talent or you’ll get a mediocre if not downright horrible performance.
valencia was always gonna be found out
wingers with zero xfactor always will
at his best he was a functional push and runner, no better than lennon or someone
he plays because taggart is content with our midfield being workmanlike and xfactorless
what makes it worse is hes a hider
uncleknobhead: “valencia was always gonna be found out”
He was “found out” by Barcelona in the 2011 CL Final @ Wembley. Since that time, he’s been less effective because other teams have realized that he’s just too one-dimensional and has a one-trick bag. AV7 has speed, strength, directness, and great athleticism BUT he’s not a difficult player to defend if he’s constantly ushered away from his right foot – then the ball goes backwards to the full-back and the urgency of the attack is lost. However, those qualities – speed, strength, athleticism – could be better used in a different role. He plays in central midfield for his national team and I’d like to see him get a similar role against RM in the return leg – shadowing CR7. Indeed, I’d feel more comfortable with him doing that job than MrJones.
Nani deserves a run in the first team after he got us through the Reading game
And if he’s not a dozy twat and nails some form then we’ll not have to even think about Valencia til the end of the season
But he has to take his chance and use his brain on the pitch
Sidney @ 4:57: ” he has to take his chance and use his brain on the pitch”
Right, it’s all about “what have you done for me lately” – except in the case of SirRyanGiggs who has been tearing them apart for 23 years WHEN he’s played on the left wing.
Why don’t you ever just click the quote link
play him on the right and he’ll always do the business
Sidney @ 9:36: “Why don’t you ever just click the quote link”
I’m an old dog so not particularly well-disposed to new tricks.